Stepping stones make a handsome alternative to the traditional garden path. They’re also much easier to install because they don’t require a gravel base. Lay them in an informal or formal arrangement, as desired, using any number of flat paving materials.
Use a path like this for places that get occasional traffic. It works for mulched areas as well as gardens. The path is awkward when rolling a stroller or wheelbarrow over it, and during rainy weather, it may not be the safest place to walk.
Choose Stepping-Stone Materials
There is a wide array of stepping-stone materials. Circles of concrete with exposed aggregate are pleasant. Another inexpensive option is concrete pavers, available in square or octagonal shapes and a variety of colors.
Flagstones create a more natural look; choose stones that tend to be round rather than square and roughly the same size. Large, flat river rocks look great but will be difficult to install. Keep in mind that you need flat surfaces so a lawn mower can go over the stones without damaging the blade.
Log slices are surprisingly durable although they will not last as long as stone or concrete. Don’t use them if the lawn stays soggy for long periods.
Arrange the Stones on the Yard
Plan the layout, using garden hose and pieces of cardboard or another movable material to experiment with the general outline of the path and the placement of individual stones. When the layout is decided, drive small stakes into the turf to mark the location of each stone. Count the stones and buy a few more than you need.
Lay the stones in place on top of the lawn in their exact positions. Have members of the family test them. You may need to compromise between ths strides of children and the strides of adults.
Cut the Sod
Work one stone at a time. With the stone set in place, use a shovel to trace its outline by slicing through the sod around it. With practice, you will make clean, accurate cuts without much effort.
Dig up and remove the turf and any other organic material in each spot, even if that means digging deeply. For each stone, make a hole as deep as the thickness of the stone plus one inch. Remove any rocks or other debris from the hole.
Tamp and Fill
Use a hand tamper or a piece of 4×4 or 2×4 to tamp the soil firmly. It is important that the soil be firmly compacted, or the stones will shift position over time.
At this point, you could just lay the stones on tamped soil. But adding some sand can make the work easier because the sand will conform to the contours of the stone bottoms more easily than soil will.
Spread one inch or so of sand in each bottom and smooth it out. Form a level base or shape the sand to match the bottom of an irregular stone.
Lay the Stones
Lay the stone on top of the sand and tamp it down until it is firm and sits level, with its top at about the soil surface so you can run a lawn mower over it.
Keep adjusting until you get the stone just right. It may help to make a gauge by marking a piece of lumber to the correct depth/ That way, you can limit the number of times you have to pick up the stones to adjust them.
The stones should not rock or wobble when you step on them. Especially with flagstones, you may need to adjust each stone slightly several times, lifting and filling or removing sand from one spot or another.